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Monday Jun 13, 2011

SA team signs R673m Lusaka property deal

South African property development expertise is being increasingly admired outside the country with the latest being a local construction consortium firm awarded $100 million (about R673m) contract to refurbish Lusaka's iconic Society House tower that was gutted by fire in the 1990s.

A rendering of the revamped tower.

The consortium of architects Louis Karol, quantity surveyors Turner & Townsend, Pam Golding Properties and BWK Monamodi electro-mechanical engineers will redevelop the tower together with a Zambian consortium.

Zambian President Rupiah Banda said he expects this redevelopment to catalyse change and bring investments to the entire Lusaka City centre. Lusaka, like many city centres in the world remains underdeveloped.

Society House.

Robert Silke, partner at Louis Karol and design architect for the Society House project said Lusaka's major advantage was that it was compact and well-managed, meaning that a major development can serve to catalyse the redevelopment of the entire city centre.

"We understand that great cities need parking, public transport, good shops and great public spaces for all citizens. Great cities also need people to sleep there at night, guaranteeing that the city centres can remain alive after five, when office workers go home," he said.

Another artists rendering.

The director of Turner Townsend, Lorna Botha, said Society House was a prestigious building and therefore uplifting it would turn things around not only for the Lusaka city centre but for Zambia as a whole.

Turner Townsend had done a number of projects in Zambia but this was the biggest and historic for them, she said.

The project is not simply a restoration of the burnt-out tower, but the tower will be refaced in a distinctive copper metallic surface and remodelled beyond recognition using a new 20-storey externalised fire escape as a means to animate the existing late modernist structure.

"Lusaka is a city of polite modernism and cyclopean towers. Society House is a 20-storey extruded concrete concertina with a neo-oriental brutalist pagoda on top, and you can't just mess with that lightly. We're going to embrace the existing form (love it or hate it) and surgically add and subtract using appropriate geometries, materials and expressive devices," said Silke.

The reconstructed skyscraper will consist of of a 160room Holiday Inn, conferencing, retail mall, A-grade offices and 1 100-car parking garage.

The rights to design and construct the project were won in an open tender in which 11 different local and international consortia participated.

Louis Karol chief executive Eitan Karol said Lusaka's skyline had yet to show evidence of the new prosperity. "The redevelopment of Society House will be a generous, very visible public gesture that isn't restricted to private malls and office parks in the suburbs."

Lusaka as a whole is a city under construction and South African construction companies, professional firms and retailers have been involved in major developments. These include the Manda Hill shopping centre and Liberty Life's massive mixed-use Levy Junction development.

The development of Society House was, however, different in a sense that it was a commercial project, but owned by benevolent state agencies, such as the national pension fund and national building society.

Silke said it can, like Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, which was developed by the Transnet Pension Fund, be expected to be a more enlightened, more generous kind of a project.

"Society House will help restore the centre of gravity to Lusaka city centre, and provide a generous capital investment into genuine public space for the full spectrum of Lusaka's citizens," he said.

The Sunday Independent




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